Olympian Fu Yuanhui Breaks Period Taboo and Wins Hearts

Chinese Olympic swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, has become one of the most celebrated Athletes of this year's Olympics, all because she spoke about her period.

Fu has stolen the hearts of many around the world (including mine), thanks to her honesty aboout that time of the month.

Although the loveable, goofy athlete took home a bronze medal in the 100-metre backstroke, the whole world's attention is more focussed on her live post-race interview.

As her three teammates were conducting an interview with a CCTV reporter after their 4x100-metre relay, Fu was squatting on the ground and clutching her abdomen. When the poolside reporter approached Fu and asked “Your stomach must hurt a lot right now?” Fu responded, “My period came last night and I’m really tired right now. But this isn’t an excuse; I still did not swim as well as I should have.”

Incredibly, Fu’s refreshingly relatable and seemingly insignificant remark about her menstrual cycle has become a moment in history for women, smashing the stigma associated with talking about the ‘taboo’ topic that involves half the world’s population. 

But what was even more incredible was the confusion that followed.

People took to the Chinese social networking site Wiebo to discuss the trending topic with some users, both male and female, confused as to how Fu could have swam with her period. One user asked “why there was no blood in the swimming pool?”

Now, I’m no Olympic swimmer (I can swim to save my life at best), but when faced with ‘Aunt Flo’ come pool time the solution to me is simple – pop a tampon in and swim to your heart’s content!

What I’ve learned from Fu’s candid conversation is that tampons have never been popular in China due to a lack of sex education, leaving women to mistakenly think that tampons will break their hymen and rob them of their virginity.

According to digital publication Quartz, China manufactured 85 billion sanitary pads last year, but not one tampon. Many Chinese women are still undergoing ‘hymen restoration’ procedures and like many other Asian countries, China places high value on virginity.

China is set to finally launch its first domestic tampon brand later this month.

The hashtags #Yuanhui, #FuYuanhui and #FuYuanhuiperiod started trending on Twitter almost immediately after her interview with a plethora of people commending the swimmer on her frankness.


Similarly to Fu’s reaction to her bronze medal win, I was surprised to learn that a lack of normalisation around tampons still exists. While Fu has fast become an online sensation – and deservingly so – she’s fast become my favourite Olympian from this year’s games.

As I watched the footage of Fu clutching her abdomen on live television, it was another subtle reminder at just how strong us girls are.

You go, Fu!



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